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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                       ^7
was placed on Kukushkin's bed and the Commissar played
<kblindfold", lying on his bed with his eyes shut. He beat
the grumbling, grousing lieutenant hands down, and
thereby rose immensely in the latter's estimation.
The effect of the Commissar's appearance in the ward
was like the fresh, moist air of the early Moscow spring
that blew into the ward in the morning when the maid
opened the windows, and when the oppressive silence of
the sick-room was broken by the invasion of the many
noises of the street. It cost the Commissar no effort to
rouse this animation. He was simply full of life,
boisterous, bubbling life, and forgot, or forced himself to
forget, the torments caused by pain.
When he woke in the morning he sat up in bed and did
his "jerks"—stretched both arms above his head, bent
his  body  first  to   one side   and then to the other, and
rhythmically bent and turned his head. When water was
taken round for washing, he insisted on having his as cold
as possible, splashed and snorted over the bowl for a long
time and then rubbed himself down with his towel with
such vigour that his swollen body turned red; and watch-
ing him, the other patients longed to do the same. When
the newspapers were brought in he eagerly snatched them
from the nurse's hand and hurriedly read the communique
of the Soviet Information Bureau, and after that calmly
and slowly read the reports  of  the war correspondents
from the different fronts. He had a way of his own in
reading, which might be called "active reading". At one
moment he would repeat in a whisper a passage in a re-
port that pleased him and mutter "that's right", and mark
the passage; or suddenly he would exclaim: "He's lying,
the son of a bitch! I bet my head to a beer bottle he was
not near the place. The rascal! And yet he writes!" One
day he got so angry over something a highly imaginative
war correspondent had written that he at once wrote a
postcard to the newspaper stating in irate terms that such
things don't and can't happen in war, and requesting that
some restraint be put on this "unmitigated liar". At other
times a report would set him thinking; he would lean
back against his pillow with open eyes, lost in reflection,
or else would tell some interesting story about his cavalry
unit, every m?m gf which, if he was tg be believed, was a